Heaping helping of high-profile local LPs
Reviewed by Chase Hoffberger, Fri., Oct. 31, 2014
Whiskey Shivers' third LP finds the ragged Austin bunch working with a producer for the first time: Robert Ellis, the Houston native whose gritty February release The Lights From the Chemical Plant made him an excitable name in country circles. Ellis helped knob that album and took full production responsibilities on his 2011 step-out Photographs plus self-released debut The Great Rearranger, but he hadn't yet taken charge of another band's album. On Whiskey Shivers, his prints are all over the 11 tracks, most visibly via "There Is a Time," on which Ellis also plays mandolin. Ultimately, he's helped the locals grow their own identifiable sound. Once somewhat of a calculated mess, the quintet – banjo, fiddle, upright bass, guitar, and washboard – here celebrates space, both lyrically via the Wild Child-like "Angel in the Snow" and musically. Check Jeff Hortillosa's guitar solo on "Friends" and the haunting percussion throughout "Graves." And despite the folkers' instrumental breakdowns, "Hot Party Dads" and "Swarm" (the latter a crisp remake off 2012's Rampa Head), Whiskey Shivers carries a truer songwriter vibe than the outfit's previous stomp-and-hollers. Excepting only "Time" from bluegrass legends the Dillards, the band combined to pen 10 of the album's 11 cuts, another step outside its comfort zone. The mastering could stand to be a little tighter – it doesn't sound like it was recorded at Houston's iconic SugarHill Studios – but if that's the lone growing pain, so be it.